Technology of Natural Gas


For hundreds of years, natural gas has been known as a very useful substance. Being a clean fuel has been the only known usage for natural gas for a very long time. However, with the industrial technological advancements, natural gas is now being used for purposes and applications never thought possible.

One of the most significant industrial applications for natural gas today is the manufacture of fertilizers. Natural gas is a significant key component in producing fertilizers, not as a fuel but as a raw material. Since the basic component of natural gas is methane, we can easily obtain hydrogen by subjecting natural gas into a reaction called "steam reforming". Once we obtain hydrogen, we can react it with nitrogen to obtain ammonia, which can be used alone as a fertilizer or reacted with carbon dioxide to obtain urea fertilizer.

These reactions take place in giant industrial facilities under severe conditions of temperature and pressure. Technicians and engineers carefully control and monitor such processes, since the production of fertilizers is among the most hazardous modern industries.

Another significant application is the fractionation of natural gas. Natural gas is processed in sophisticated fractionation facilities under very low temperatures and high pressures to recover and separate its four significant trace components: ethane, propane, butane, and hydrocarbon condensates. Butane can be mixed with propane to get LPG (Butagas Cylinders). Ethane, propane, and butane are key ingredients in the petrochemicals industry; for example, they are used in the production of plastics. Butane is used as a component in manufacturing gasoline. Propane is significantly used as a refrigerant in cooling and refrigeration systems. Finally, condensates are widely used in producing high grade gasoline, as well as in several chemical industries.

Natural gas is also essentially used in power stations as either a heating source for steam boilers in steam turbines, or as a fuel supply for gas turbines. Comparing power stations that use natural gas and those that use petroleum or coal, we will find that for an equivalent amount of heat, burning natural gas produces about 30% less carbon dioxide than petroleum and about 45% less than coal. Statistics proved that coal-fired electric power generation emits around 900 kg of carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour generate, which is almost double the carbon dioxide released by a natural gas-fired electric plant.

Nowadays, combined cycle power generation, which uses both steam and gas turbines, and relies entirely on natural gas is currently the cleanest available source of power using hydrocarbon fuels. This technology is being widely and increasingly used as natural gas, and can be obtained at increasingly reasonable costs.

On the domestic level, in most of the developed world natural gas is supplied to homes via pipelines where it is used for many purposes including operating  cookers, ovens, clothes dryers, and central heating. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)—derived from natural gas—and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) are also used for domestic purposes without the need for connecting to pipeline networks. 

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